My concerns about Jeff Ashton's ability to lead the Ninth Circuit State Attorney's Office aren't based on just the ridiculous Facebook comments by his campaign manager or the campaign's willingness to accept support from shady characters like Doug Guetzloe.
"Even a broken clock is right twice a day," and the Orlando Sentinel hit the nail on the head in their endorsement for Lawson Lamar:
Of course, Ashton knows conviction rates can be misleading. Trying tough cases, as Lamar insists he does, sinks percentages. And while occasionally trying cases could be beneficial for the top prosecutor, it sometimes smacks of a politician wanting to take center stage for a big case.
What's more crucial is having the administrative chops to run an office with 145 attorneys, a $25 million budget and a caseload of nearly 89,000, and that's a primary reason we recommend returning Lamar to office.
That, and our concerns that Ashton favors limiting the public's access to information prior to trials. Florida already has too many public officials who want to weaken the state's open government laws. As messy as the Casey Anthony trial might have been, in the end a jury rendered a verdict that we don't believe was tainted by the publicity. Ashton may not see it that way, but he was on the losing end.
Ashton also would dismantle the team of lawyers tasked with investigating public corruption. While we're not convinced Lamar's unit has done enough over the years, we're certain that dismantling it as Ashton proposes would mean even less focus on official corruption...
...in the end, Lamar is correct when he contends the office couldn't "have the second-highest number of wins at trial in the state of Florida" if it were so poorly managed, as Ashton contends.
The Sentinel recommends keeping Lamar as the Orange-Osceola state attorney.In a follow up post, Sentinel editorial writer Mike Lafferty emphasized the point:
This is an administrative job overseeing a very large government operation. You need someone who serves as an administrator, not a courtroom attorney. Elections supervisors don’t spend their days registering people or working at the polling places. Sheriffs do ride-alongs but don’t spend their days on street patrol. In the private sector, bank presidents don’t work the teller windows and newspaper editors don’t go out and report stories. The state attorney needs to be able to run a large operation. That’s what Lamar has done and Jeff Ashton has not.If the Orlando Sentinel isn't enough to convince you (and that is a completely understandable position!), then let's look at Jeff Ashton's own words in his book about the Casey Anthony trial, Imperfect Justice, to prove the point.
[Note: Jeff Ashton is the only person involved in the Casey Anthony trial on the prosecution side who sought to profit from the case. Dr. Jan Garavaglia, aka "Dr. G," the medical examiner in the case, donated all proceeds from her TV special to children's charities.]
From the first chapter of Imperfect Justice, Ashton writes about his discussions with Linda Drane Burdick, the lead prosecutor on the case, about being part of the trial team:
I was thrilled to be on Linda's short list, but before either of us could begin to plan anything, office politics had to be negotiated. In 2002, I'd been made a supervisor, leading the juvenile division of the State Attorney's Office. The assignment was supposed to have been a promotion, but I'd hated it. I missed trial work, and the following year I asked to return to the felony trial branch. Even though I had founded the homicide division in 1990, I was no longer a member of that department and could not move back. Instead, I was now tucked away in the trial division, even though I had twenty-eight years of service, an unblemished record, and a near-perfect conviction rate. After some difficulties with supervisors, I'd earned an unwarranted reprimand and had been informed I was not a team player...Ashton clearly loves trial work, and I do think that he does have some commendable results on his resume. However, the issue is not whether Ashton has adequate skills in a courtroom, but rather whether he has the skills needed to effectively manage the State Attorney's Office. I have yet to see anything that reassures me that he does.
This book was written by Ashton, and I think it's safe to assume that he tried to put things in the light most favorable to him. But in this passage, and in several others throughout the book, Ashton admits to problems getting along with his co-workers and resentment towards his supervisors. He got a promotion, but "hated it," he didn't like the division to which he was assigned, he was unappreciated and "tucked away" by people who failed to appreciate his brilliance, etc. Of course, Ashton has to characterize any reprimands as "unwarranted" - ask any schoolchild who had to serve detention, and they will always respond that the teacher was being "mean" or "unfair."
Most telling is Ashton's admission that the one time he was in a management position at the State Attorney's Office, he "hated it" and demanded a transfer.
The same guy who "hated" managing one division at the State Attorney's Office and couldn't even stick it out for a year, is now asking Central Florida voters to put him in charge of the entire office.
We can do better than this nonsense. I encourage my readers to reject Ashton's chip-on-his-shoulder campaign, and re-elect Lawson Lamar.
Learn more about Lawson Lamar at www.OurStateAttorney.com.